Olympic Games mascots over the years have ranged from the iconic – think Misha the bear (Moscow 1980) or Hondori (Seoul 1988) – to the plain weird (we're looking at you, Wenlock). But if you thought nothing could be stranger than a mascot supposedly born from "the last drop of steel" used to build London's Olympic Stadium, think again.
The Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games mascots have been revealed, and they're a hoot. They're fun, they're sporty and they love to party – everything you want from an Olympic mascot... oh, and everyone thinks they look like part of the female anatomy (now, that's not something we looked at in our top character design tips!).
pic.twitter.com/uYAuOlcCe1November 14, 2022
According to the Paris organising committee, the Paris Olympic mascots “embody the French spirit by offering something new,” and breaking with the tradition of using an animal figure. London actually already did that back in 2012, but the one-eyed Wenlock had a cold industrial superhero backstory involving steel used to build the stadium. Paris has clitorises.
Of course, the Phryges (don't ask us to pronounce it) are not actually meant to be clitorises. They're based on the shape of Phrygian caps, or 'liberty caps'. Ah, bien sûr; those floppy red conical hats associated with the French Revolution!
But despite the historical symbolism of the bonnet rouge – and the fact that it features in official symbols in several countries, including in the Argentine coat of arms and the seal of the US senate, they're not exactly everyday items these days. And so people have decided the Phryges represent something else entirely, which is quite a glorious thing.
Hein ? pic.twitter.com/OwlfyshuBqNovember 15, 2022
The newspaper Libération (opens in new tab) is hailing the sporty pair as a revolutionary departure from the traditional use of the Eiffel Tower as a defining icon of the city. It says that "from an anatomical point of view”, a clitoris as the French Olympic mascot shows that years of taboo and a lack of education have come to an end. While, “from a political point of view, it’s not a bad thing that Paris lets go of its eternal phallic Eiffel Tower” to promote a revolutionary and feminist Paris.
We've published a new guide to the anatomy of the clitoris! Here's the parts of the internal and external organ. pic.twitter.com/h2fJpSDOoTNovember 15, 2022
The Phryges have gone down well on social media as well. The Vagina Museum saw an opportunity to turn the characters into some amusing educational content, labelling their parts. "I was never told that I could choose the nationality of my Clitoris during re-assignment surgery," one person responded on Twitter.
But not everyone's impressed. "Quelle catastrophe!" one person responded to Paris 2024 on Twitter (opens in new tab), claiming that the characters were a glorification of the French Revolution. "A mascot of this kind must appeal to adults and children, it must have a friendly, cute and above all emotional side!" someone else said. "Even a rat, like Ratatouille, or a pigeon would have been preferable."
Someone else claims the clitorises – sorry, Phrygian caps – look like "an avian cousin of the Minions. "First an Olympic flame that looks like the sign of a low-end hair salon and now this?" they complained. While someone else protested: "We could have had a beret, a baguette or even an Eiffel tower. No, we chose a Phrygian cap that looks like a clit."
Je pose ça la #Paris2024 #Phryges #bobleponge 😂 pic.twitter.com/Z9njt8YsJdNovember 15, 2022
For others, the problem is that a red hat doesn't mean much to people in a lot of countries. "No good. Their name is unpronounceable by half of humanity," one person said. "Congratulations, this symbol makes no sense to 99% of the world," someone else said. But of course, that's only if one insists that the mascots are Phrygian caps... but if we accept they're clitorises, they have a much more universal appeal – and work well with the equally controversial Paris 2024 logo.
Julia Pietri, a feminist writer who led a street-art campaign for more eduction on the clitoris, told the Guardian (opens in new tab): "I’m happy and rejoicing that, thanks to all that’s happened in feminism, people can at least recognise the clitoris. It shows it’s now in popular culture and that’s a win.”